On a recent trip to the Mercato (the amazing famers market in Little Italy) I came across an ingredient that I have never use. Not as rare of an occurrence as you might think.

The ingredient~ Stinging Nettle; I know it doesn’t sound very appetizing; more like it instills fear and a look of “are you seriously going to eat that” (at least that was the look my mom gave me when she saw me cleaning the nettles with rubber cloves on).

The nettles (a common shrub) have “venom” in then and if touched in the raw state it makes your skin sting a little. But when cooked, they crisp when fried or braise like collard greens. The nettles have an herbal flavor; almost a cross between spinach, arugula and fennel.

It was love at first bite and I have been play with every idea I can think of for cooking them. From sautéed in a pasta sauce, to cooked and add to my scrambled eggs (these where my two favorites).

If you too are inspired to cook with the stinging nettle, they can be found at “Suzies Farm” booth in either the Little Italy or the Hillcrest farmers markets. But act now; I am not sure how long they will have them for.

Spaghetti with Pancetta, Garlic, and Stinging Nettles
Serves 2

¼ cup Pancetta, cut into small cubes
½ tsp Garlic, minced
½ cup Stinging nettles
1 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
¼ lb Spaghetti
1/3 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil.
Blanch stinging nettles, place into ice water and strain.
Remove leaves from stems and roughly chop leave in small dice (discarding stems).
Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat, add pancetta. Cook till pancetta pieces are golden and crisp.
Add spaghetti to boiling water with 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
Strain pasta and reserve 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid.
Heat sauté pan with pancetta over medium high heat; add garlic and cook till fragrant.
Add stinging nettles; stir to combine and cook till leaves begin to crisp.
Add cooking liquid and pasta; stir to coat pasta in sauce.
Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
To serve, twirl pasta around the end of a set of tongs and place onto a plate, garnish with Parmesan.